Local Advisory Committees
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Several Ontario municipalities have been successful in using local mediation committees to deal with conflict related to agricultural activities, including nutrient management issues. Local Advisory Committees (LAC) are a tool to involve community members in solving issues around nutrient management.
LACs deal with complaints and concerns related to the storage and land application of materials containing nutrients. Examples could include neighbour disputes or concerns regarding the storage or use of nutrients.
"Nutrient" includes fertilizer, organic materials, biosolids, compost, manure, septage, pulp and paper sludge, and other materials applied to land for the purpose of improving the growing of agricultural crops. These materials may be generated from agricultural activities and include livestock manure, run-off and washwater as well as commercial fertilizer and compost. Non-Agricultural Source Materials (NASM) include pulp and paper bio-solids, sewage biosolids, anaerobic digestion output, vegetable waste or other by-products of food processing.
A Local Advisory Committee can be involved in:
A LAC will not:
Depending on municipal needs, a Local Advisory Committee committees can be created at either by the county/region or local level.
Step 1: Determine the need for a LAC
Ask the following questions:
Step 2: Learn about legislation that affects agricultural activities
The municipality needs to be familiar with legislation such as the Nutrient
Management Act, 2002 (NMA), the Ontario Water Resources Act, the Environmental
Protection Act and the Pesticides Act, their impact on agricultural operations
as well as the LAC's roles and operations.
Step 3: Determine membership of the committee
The committee needs at least five members, following these rules.
Step 4: Establish the committee
A by-law is required to establish the committee. This can occur at either the country/regional level or the town/township level. Membership can be selected by either: requesting organizations delegate member representatives, seeking volunteers using newspaper advertisements or public broadcasts, or appointing members.
Step 5: Determine the operation of the committee
Council appoints a chair and one or more vice-chairs. The committee should adopt procedural rules used by other successful committees.
Step 6: Determine the procedure for conducting a successful mediation
Mediation is one key responsibility of a LAC. The LAC cannot mediate incidents that contravene any legislation. Other details, such as what incidents the committee will mediate and conflict of interest and confidentiality disclosure rules, are at the discretion of the municipality and the LAC.
Step 7: Evaluate the education and consultation needs of your community
The role of a LAC is to educate people about managing materials containing nutrients. Proceed based on the targeted needs of the local community. For example, the LAC could advise the municipality on building permits and site plan issues. The committee cannot evaluate nutrient management plans or strategies submitted for approval or review in compliance of the NMA.
Step 8: Provide training for committee members
LAC members need to be appropriately trained to fulfil their responsibilities, recognize their limitations and carry out successful mediation. Success in resolving conflicts depends on the ability of committee members to understand and utilize mediation strategies that fit the dispute situation and parties involved. Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) and the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) staff are available to provide technical guidance and training assistance where possible.
Step 9: Determine on-going reporting and evaluation of the committee
The by-law establishing the committee can require the chair to report to the municipality. If these cases, the committee reports to the municipal clerk. The municipality needs to consider how to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the committee. The municipality may collect data on the incidents investigated by the LAC to determine the program's merits and to assess whether changes are needed.
Step 10: Inform the community about the Local Advisory Committee
It is important to inform the community about the role and process of the LAC. Ensure that government agencies, farm groups and community members know about the committee and have realistic expectations of its role.
Both the Ministry of the Environment and OMAFRA receive complaints regarding farm operations, potential environmental concerns and reports of farm-related spills.
OMAFRA Agricultural Information Contact Centre (AICC)
The AICC handles general inquiries about agriculture and also responds to disturbance complaints, such as odour, noise, light, smoke, dust, flies and vibrations. OMAFRA staff review and evaluate disturbance complaints to determine if the matter is a normal farm practice, as defined in the Farming and Food Production Protection Act. If the matter is not a contravention of any legislation, it may then be referred to the LAC.
Northern Ontario Regional Office: 1-800-461-6132
Local MOE district/area offices
Individual numbers can be found in the blue pages of local phone books. The Ministry of the Environment has 22 district and area offices across Ontario responsible for responding to environmental incidents, complaints and spills, including those that are agriculturally related. Staff respond to calls that report potential violations of the NMA, 2002, the Environmental Protection Act (EPA), the Ontario Water Resources Act (OWRA) and/or the Pesticides Act (PA), as well as more general reports of environmental incidents or concerns.
MOE Spills Action Centre (SAC): 1-800-268-6060
The SAC, staffed on a 24-hour basis, receives and records province-wide reports of spills and co-ordinates responses. Spills are defined as releases of pollutants into the natural environment originating from a structure, vehicle or other container, and that are abnormal in light of all circumstances. Spills must be reported immediately to the action centre and to the municipality by the owner/operator when they cause or are likely to cause an adverse effect. Once the SAC receives the call, it is there responsibility to co-ordinate a response through the local district or area office.
OMAFRA Nutrient Management Information Line: 1-866-242-4460
The Nutrient Management Information Line operates during business hours and provides information on specific nutrient management questions. It also provides referrals to local specialists who can offer information about the NMA to a LAC.
Complaints received at OMAFRA or MOE are reviewed to determine if they are related to the land application of nutrients. If no violation has occurred the matter may be referred to the LAC.
The mediation process begins in one of two ways:
Complaints Received by the Municipality
When a written complaint is received, the municipality follows the procedure outlined below.
Complaints Received by MOE or OMAFRA
When either the MOE district/area office or OMAFRA receive a complaint, ministry staff review it and decide whether to investigate themselves or refer it to the LAC.
The LAC chair can choose to form a smaller panel to mediate a complaint. At least one member of the mediation panel may be from the same or similar agricultural operation as the matter referred to in the complaint report. The panel then investigates.
If at any time during the mediation it is determined that the incident involved a violation or a spill, mediation must end according to the following procedure.
Subject to the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act
LAC mediations and any written reports are confidential. A LAC mediation does not prevent administrative or enforcement procedures from being carried out under provincial or other legislation.
Subject to Municipal Conflict of Interest Act
If any panel member, either personally or on behalf of another, has a financial interest in a matter before the LAC, the member must disclose that interest before the mediation begins. All parties must agree to proceed with the mediation.
Caldwell, Wayne and Ball, Jennifer, Ten Steps to Creating a Local Advisory Committee. School of Environmental Design and Rural Development, University of Guelph, 2003.
Figure 1. Sample Flow Chart for Incident Management
by Local Advisory Committees (LAC)
For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300
Local: (519) 826-4047